What is Linked Data?

The primary topic of a meme penned by TimBL in the form of a Design Issues Doc (note: this is how TimBL has shared his thoughts since the Beginning of the Web).

There are a number of dimensions to the meme, but its primary purpose is the reintroduction of the HTTP URI -- a vital component of the Web's core architecture.

What's Special about HTTP URIs?

They possess an intrinsic duality that combines persistent and unambiguous Data Identity with platform & representation format independent Data Access. Thus, you can use a string of characters that look like a contemporary Web URL to unambiguously achieve the following:

  1. Identity or Name Anything of Interest
  2. Describe Anything of Interest by associating the Description Subject's Identity with a constellation of Attribute and Value pairs (technically: an Entity-Attribute-Value or Subject-Predicate-Object graph)
  3. Make the Description of Named Things of Interest discoverable on the Web by implicitly binding the aforementioned to Documents that hold their descriptions (technically: metadata documents or information resources)

What's the basic value proposition of the Linked Data meme?

Enabling more productive use of the Web by users and developers alike. All of which is achieved by tweaking the Web's Hyperlinking feature such that it now includes Hypertext and Hyperdata as link types.

Note: Hyperdata Linking is simply what an HTTP URI facilitates.

Examples problems solved by injecting Linked Data into the Web:

  1. Federated Identity by enabling Individuals to unambiguously Identify themselves (Profiles++) courtesy of existing Internet and Web protocols (e.g., FOAF+SSL's WebIDs which combine Personal Identity with X.509 certificates and HTTPs based client side certification)
  2. Security and Privacy challenge alleviation by delivering a mechanism for policy based data access that feeds off federated individual identity and social network (graph) traversal
  3. Spam Busting via the above.
  4. Increasing the Serendipitous Discovery Quotient (SDQ) of Web accessible resources by embedding Rich Metadata into (X)HTML Documents e.g., structured descriptions of your "WishLists" and "OfferLists" via a common set of terms offered by vocabularies such as GoodRelations and SIOC
  5. Coherent integration of disparate data across the Web and/or within the Enterprise via "Data Meshing" rather than "Data Mashing"
  6. Moving beyond imprecise statistically driven "Keyword Search" (e.g. Page Rank) to "Precision Find" driven by typed link based Entity Rank plus Entity Type and Entity Property filters.


If all of the above still falls into the technical mumbo-jumbo realm, then simply consider Linked Data as delivering Open Data Access in granular form to Web accessible data -- that goes beyond data containers (documents or files).

The value proposition of Linked Data is inextricably linked to the value proposition of the World Wide Web. This is true, because the Linked Data meme is ultimately about an enhancement of the current Web; achieved by reintroducing its architectural essence -- in new context -- via a new level of link abstraction, courtesy of the Identity and Access duality of HTTP URIs.

As a result of Linked Data, you can now have Links on the Web for a Person, Document, Music, Consumer Electronics, Products & Services, Business Opening & Closing Hours, Personal "WishLists" and "OfferList", an Idea, etc.. in addition to links for Properties (Attributes & Values) of the aforementioned. Ultimately, all of these links will be indexed in a myriad of ways providing the substrate for the next major period of Internet & Web driven innovation, within our larger human-ingenuity driven innovation continuum.